November marks National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is a time where writers buckle down to write 50,000 words within a 30-day time span. This is equal to about 1,700 words a day, which is a large time commitment that many college students cannot even fathom completing with everything else on their plates as the semester nears a close.
“The only reason I'm not participating is because I'm so busy with all of the other things that I'm doing,” said senior English major Kaylie Sorensen. “I haven't (participated) in this challenge either. I honestly hadn't even heard of it until this year, shamefully. I'd love to work on it in the future when I have more downtime.”
Senior Alexis Daley has had the opportunity to participate and complete her own novel within the month long time constraint.
“I participated in NaNoWriMo a few years ago and finished a very short historical fiction. Since schoolwork has taken over every ounce of (my) spare time in recent years, I have not been able to fully participate in it, but I plan to in the future to generate more storylines,” Daley said.
Obviously, this feat is not an easy one and comes with stress and the occasional lapse in strength.
“To complete something in as little as a month, the author has to commit to writing pretty much every day, and sometimes that is hard. Life takes over, but dedication is what makes you sit down and just write, even if it isn't good. That's what this month is about though: writing for the sake of writing, regardless of quality,” Daley said.
Even for seasoned writers, writing a novel without a time constraint is a difficult task. Sorensen has been writing since she was around the age of twelve and studies writing as her minor and admits to the difficulties.
“Oh, it's so hard. Especially because, personally, I haven't written anything super extensive. The most I've been able to get down that I didn't immediately throw away was about maybe 19 pages. Then I threw it away because I didn't like it that much,” Sorensen said.
Junior Melody Grooms also expresses her difficulties with writing a piece of work as extensive as a novel.
“I think the most difficult aspect of attempting a novel, even a short one of 100-150 pages, in just one month is exactly that: you have one month,” Grooms said. “There is so much that goes into a good piece of literature, no matter the length, but a novel takes so much more time … Depending on the genre, it may require the author to develop rules and laws for another reality. And, of course, the arrival of the dreaded writer’s block.”
However, it is not an impossible task to complete. According to the official website, there are participants all over the world from Iceland to Japan. So, more than likely, you’re not the only one struggling.
However, for the lucky writers that do accomplish this, their work is far from done. It’s one thing to write 50,000 words coherently into a story, but preparing it for the readers is another task entirely.
“Personally, I’ve found that when it comes to revising, it’s best to wait. The longer the literature, the more time and space you should allow. I have thrown out entire pieces, long pieces, because I was too close to them and too frustrated to see their value at the time, and later regretted it,” Grooms said.
Many writers go on to publish their works, whether it’s a product of NaNoWriMo or not. Daley has experience in the publishing business through her internship with The Laurel Review, a publication produced by the University English Department.
“When it comes to publishing, it is a scary process, and you're going to get rejected by publishing houses, by literary agents, by readers, but you can't please everyone. If you truly believe in your work and your story, stick to your principles because someone will see it as you do,” said Daley. “You have to grow a thick skin in the publishing world, and you need to learn to filter the constructive criticisms from the preference criticisms.”
With all these difficulties, it’s hard for a non-writer to see the appeal, however, writing is a passion.
“For me, I have to constantly remind myself that my goal in writing is not necessarily a physical goal. I’m not looking to be the next Stephen King, John Green, Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Meyer… You get the point. I’m writing for me, and no one else. Writing, at least in the creative sense, is more about self-expression than anything, as far as I’m concerned,” Grooms said.
For those of you currently participating in NaNoWriMo or enjoy writing in general, Sorensen offers some advice: “Just keep going.”